I started to call this “Why Nepotism Kills Organization” because I feel so strongly about it. First, let me get this out of the way: Everyone wants to hire their family. Especially in a small, close knit operation – or a family business – it’s completely natural. There’s nothing wrong with the desire to help your own family out in the business. There’s nothing I would like better than to be able to help my own children through my work.
Now I say that with the understanding that the family member carries his or her weight and is right for the job. When it doesn’t happen, that’s the problem with nepotism. As the organization grows, relatives who can’t keep up, don’t pull their weight, are incompetent, or take advantage of the situation hurt your organization far more than you realize.
In media ministries, you see it when a relative is featured singing on a program – only the person doesn’t have a shred of talent. The partners clap, but your employees are biting their lip. It’s also interesting that children become heads of departments – and usually the exciting departments. I rarely see a pastor’s kid head up the Intercession Ministry, but they do seem to gravitate to the Media Ministry.
It can be a tough call, so as you look over your church, ministry, non-profit, or company, here are some checks and balances to keep in mind:
1) Wanting to bring a family member into the company is understood. Unless your employees are complete jerks, they understand the desire of a leader to help a family member. Hey – we don’t live in a perfect world, and nothing’s fair. Besides, you’ve given you blood, sweat, and tears into building the organization, and you have every right to share that with your family.
2) But if that family member isn’t qualified, it can reek havoc. Believe me, everyone in your organization knows they’re only there because they’re related to someone, so the resentment starts to build – even with the best people.
3) When that happens – it doesn’t help your relative. You may think giving your brother in law the VP position is good for him. But if it’s out of his skill set, then he’s headed for trouble. One VP of a major ministry sat in my office in tears. He knew he was over his head, but this father had pressured him to take the position. He hated the job. He hated himself. He resented his father. Not good. Do him or her a favor and make sure they’re cut out for the job first.
4) Also – when a relative is incompetent, it’s unfair because it gives them a false sense of success. First – who’s going to reprimand him? After all, his or her father is the head of the organization. So the kid never gets corrected or challenged. Second – you can’t evaluate him accurately, because he’s your child. So they go through their career thinking they’re brilliant, when it fact, their subordinates and peers think they’re a joke.
5) Don’t live in a fantasy. I know pastors or business executives who have children in positions of authority. They would argue that those children are respected within the organization, people aren’t afraid to challenge their decisions, and they are thriving. But I know (and the employees know) the exact opposite is true.
6) Start them at the bottom. There’s always been a great story in Hollywood that when a legendary talk show host brought his son into the company, he didn’t start him out in management. He started him out in the painting department as a set painter. That generated so much respect both for the host and his son, that story is still being talking about. Show everyone in the company that your child is willing to work and to prove himself. He’ll earn far more respect and admiration.
Am I against hiring your family? Absolutely not. I realize it’s a natural desire, plus, the fact is there are awkward situations that sometimes make it difficult not to. Plus, some families are brilliant. Who would doubt Joel Osteen taking over his father’s Lakewood Church? Dan Meyer, CEO of Joyce Meyer Ministries, has done a brilliant job. There are great success stories of children and other relatives taking organizations to the next level.
But I am against hiring an incompetent or inexperienced family member – particularly vaulting them over more experienced, loyal, hard-working, competent employees. When you do that, it sows seeds of strife, distrust, and frustration that can completely shut down the momentum of an organization.
Be sensitive. Be careful. Do the right thing. Even if it hurts.